ALBUM REVIEW: Client Liaison’s Long Awaited “Diplomatic Immunity”

We’ve had the champagne on ice and now, we’re ready to pop it in the back of an Off White Limousine because the debut LP from Melbourne’s Client Liaison is finally here. Long awaited with an EP and countless tours preceding it, Diplomatic Immunity is a stellar amalgamation of everything that makes Client Liaison one of the most exciting, fascinating and entertaining acts of recent memory.

Committed as hell, it continues the narrative defined on lead single Wild Life so when you settle into your seat, you’ve gotta be ready to roll straight down the line between 80s-early 90s excess and contemporary Australiana. 

The LP sees Monte Morgan and Harvey Miller take the flavours of their 2014 self-titled EP and turn the heat all the way up, calling on their presence as a live act and smacking it down hard in the studio. Even if they didn’t create visuals for most of their songs, there’s enough imagery in the music to create a total-sensory experience. The opening bars of the album come by the way of the smoke-covered Canberra Won’t Be Calling Tonight. The song starts out with calls of Australian wildlife (both literal in the form of kookaburras and figurative with snippets of senate squabbles) before melting into a thick bassline that carries all the way through the jungle of vivid keys into second single Wild Life. Together, the pair make for a strong album opening – two tracks joined together in holy, synth-fuelled matrimony. If you came to Diplomatic Immunity expecting to dance, you won’t be let down.

That isn’t to say however, that Morgan, Miller and Co don’t have any other moves up their rolled sleeves. A Foreign Affair is that much hyped Tina Arena collaboration, and it proves that while Client Liaison are strong on the dancefloor, they have been keeping a talent for story-telling balladry somewhat hidden. The song features a sample of JOY.‘s About Us  and with Arena’s voice, it soars to 30,000 feet, the harmonies she creates with Morgan at the bridge are a slice of synthpop purity as they detail exploits of a literal foreign affair , jetsetting first class with room service charged to the company.

There are a handful of tracks where we truly see the influences from which Client Liaison draw from. Off White Limousine is comparatively stripped back and relies on a sharp, funky guitar riff to carry it through, where Electric Eyes takes a similar approach with its Pull Up To The Bumper-esque bassline which sees the album out. Alternatively, Where Do We Belong calls to mind early-1980s Michael Jackson, with its particularly Wanna Be Startin’ Somethin’ beat and Thriller synths, and there’s something decidedly Madonna about The Bravest Beginnings  – that isn’t to say any of it is bad or imitation, rather quite the contrary. Moreover, the references to Australian politics of past and present remind us where Client Liaison are coming from. 

Lead single World Of Our Love brings us back to that meeting of retro and contemporary they do so well and it also provides Morgan with one of the best opportunities to showcase his vocal talents through melodies that flit around. The saxophone cutting through the air at the break will leave you in a state of euphoria. Hotel Stay, like Foreign Affair, is an exercise in excess and entanglement. Home is beautifully vibrant with additional swinging vocals from Sarah Carr that just about steal the entire show, set against a trickling, colourful backdrop. It is also one of the tracks that offers us a little more insight into the personal preoccupations of a band born out of longing and constant touring. It comes in near the end, but Home hones things back in and, in an album of pure gems, it is a shimmering standout. 

Diplomatic Immunity has arrived in perfect time – we have been waiting long enough and now, the weather is heating up the way dancefloors ought to be when this duo is spinning. 80s disco and excess anchored by a breath of fresh, contemporary air, Diplomatic Immunity harkens back and propels forward at the same time, rich and luminescent without being a tacky or gaudy throwback for throwback’s sake – everything one could have hoped for from a Client Liaison album and then some.

Diplomatic Immunity is out now via Remote Control.

Image: Danielle Hansen for Howl & Echoes (view the entire gallery here)